Please note that the PaHR-Access website was moved this website as of February 1st, 2012. Let us know if any of the links do not work
People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access) www.pahr-access.org
We are asking everyone (including out-of-state residents) to help in a grassroots effort to have Pennsylvania make its older state birth and death certificates available online
Thank you for helping us succeed in changing Pennsylvania law to make birth certificates over 105 years old and death certificates more than 50 years old become open records. Although this is a huge step forward and perhaps the most important, especially considering Pennsylvania was one of the most restricted states when it came to accessing these records, our mission will be compete when the records are scanned and data extracted for an online database which will make these records truly accessible in a way light years away from any manual search of the records.
This website had been completely changed and updated to reflect the new Vital Records Law Senate Bill 361 (Act 110 of 2011) signed into law Dec 15th, 2011 and went into effect February 13th, 2012. It has been once again changed in August 2012 to reflect the contract the Pennsylvania State Archives signed with Ancestry.com to make the records available online. See Frequently Asked Questions for more on all of these changes.
For the latest news about indices of Pennsylvania births and deaths now available online see Frequently Asked Questions. For a link to the indices see Vital Records Currently Available Online. For the latest news about the contract with Ancestry.com see When Will the Records Be Available Online.
- Frequently Asked Questions (State Archives signs contract with Ancestry)
- Vital Records Currently Available Online (index of Pennsylvania birth and deaths now available online)
Our Goal: (also see FAQ)
Our main goal all along has been to have Pennsylvania state death certificates after 50 years and possibly birth certificates after 100 years become open records and AVAILABLE ONLINE. When Pennsylvania Vital Records Bill SB-361 (Act 110 of 2011) went into effect law on February 13th, 2012 it made all death certificates over 50 years old and birth certificates over 105 years old open records (the latter figure was part of a compromise). It also transfers the certificates to the Pennsylvania State Archives as they become open records year each. You might say the first phase has been a complete success. Next phase to have them available in an online database is expected to be completed around February 2014.
The Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records has as of February 2012 provided online indices of certificates that have become open records. However, the indices are rather crude and seem to be merely scanned images of printouts of their in house computer indices that look 30 or 40 years old and are not searchable as with a modern computer search engine. Each index is by year and listings are alphabetical. The index for birth records includes the person's name, date and place of birth and the mother's name. The father's name is not included. For the death index the data contains no more than the person's name, place and date of death although the later entries usually include the age. For links to these indices see Vital Records Currently Available Online.
The Pennsylvania State Archives has recently signed a contract with Ancestry.com to have the original state birth and death certificates that are now open records scanned and data extracted. For more about this see When Will The Records Be Available Online? under Frequently Asked Questions.
Some people would like to also see an online index of deaths less than 50 years old. This however might require another change in the law. But in addition to benefiting genealogical and historical research it would also help to stop identity theft of the deceased by making it easier to verify deaths, the same purpose as the Social Security Death Index. For a better understanding of this issue please read Frequently Asked Questions.
PaHR-Access (People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access) is strictly a grassroots organization started in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania in August of 2007. It was first known as People for Better Access to Pennsylvania Historical Records (PBAPHR). The name change took place in early November 2007 to allow for a more pronounceable acronym (i.e. par-access).
We are ordinary people who literally want to have better access to Pennsylvania's historical records. Our main concern is Pennsylvania state birth and death certificates. There are no membership dues merely the willingness to help in this effort. PaHR-Access is not affiliated with any political, commercial, institutional or religious organization whatsoever. Website contents designed and composed by Tim Gruber with input from Dale Berger and others. If you have any questions or concerns please contact our spokesperson:
We would enjoy hearing from you
December 1, 2007
(updated June 24th, 2013)